Country Club Chic at the Oscars

Don’t you loathe all the pre-Oscar hype? I find it very unglamorous and decidedly proctalgia-inducing. What happened to spontaneity? This year the speculation about the nominees and their outfits definitely reached a zenith of baroque silliness.

Sunday night finally arrived–time to sit down in front of the telly and endure the four-hour ceremony. Oy ! I turned on E! just in time to see Chloë Sevigny giving Joan Rivers the skinny on her borrowed ensemble: jewelry by Bulgari, Asprey & Garrard and frock by Yves Saint Laurent. What motivates a highly-paid movie actress, not to mention a descendant of the witty and sophisticated writer, Madame de Sévigné, to allow herself to be turned into a branding puppet for a fashion house?

At the root of it all seems to be good old-fashioned tight-fistedness: Actresses are simply bending over backward not to pay for their awards drag. And then they whine to Ms. Rivers about how much they love their frock and how sad they will be to give it back. Girls ! Open your purses ! If you can’t afford designer schmattes, then who can?

More stars arrived, and lo and behold, the who-will-wear-what frenzy that we had been subjected to for the last six weeks turned out to be a big dry hump. We got staid country-club glamour: simple bustiers, the occasional décolleté, tight bodices that constrict one’s lymph nodes, lots of black and that old 1950′s trick, the plunging back. If you half closed your eyes, Hilary Swank looked like Jane Fonda. The 1930′s bias-cut Harlow glamour of recent years has been replaced by an adult chic, reminiscent of the Eisenhower-Kennedy years. But without Marilyn wriggling inside, these clothes can look dull and mumsy. E.g. Charlize Theron has the vavoom to pull it off, but Uma Thurman looks a bit like a very stylish geography teacher.

But wait. Who’s that with the green Christo-wrapped factory chimney on her head? It’s Erykah Badu, and her Miriam Makeba-St. Patrick’s Day creation is rocking the house. It’s an Afrocentric couture fantasia constructed from patches of leprechaun-green leather held together with raffia crochet and it has the refreshing whiff of amateurism. It bumps Cate Blanchett’s Jean Paul Gaultier and becomes my favorite. Mazel tov !

One look at Peter Coyote, the voice of the Oscars, in front of all those yet-to-be-presented statuettes and I flipped to MTV where I found the perfect antidote to the imminent tedium–spring break 2000.

While Billy Crystal was doing his opening spiel, hunks at Fat Tuesdays in Cancun were matching water balloons to their girlfriends’ cup size. Pourquoi pas ? More jolly japes followed: a bride or Barbie competition; busty, horny chicks swimming with dolphins; studs and starlets swapping minuscule swimwear in a see-through phone booth. Collegiate used to mean preppie–now it would appear to mean dressing like a lap-dancer or a male stripper-relief masseur and living your life as if you were in a Russ Meyer movie.

I flipped democratically back and forth from ABC, but as the evening wore on the battle to be king and queen of spring break 2000 seemed more culturally significant, i.e. contained more gratuitous nudity. Couples were instructed to “introduce your best body part to one another.” I was rooting for couple 4, Ace and Ashley, and I wasn’t going to desert them now.

While you were watching Sarah McLachlan belt out Randy Newman’s theme from Toy Story 2 , I was watching the three male finalists writing words like “bootie,” “crack” and “butt” on their female partners’ bare derrieres with lipstick. The young “college” girls then pressed their inscribed cheek onto a sheet of Plexiglas. If she could read the imprint of what her partner had written, the two young hopefuls would win.

As predicted by moi , Ace and Ashley wiped the floor with couples 2 and 6 while Phil Collins was getting lachrymose back at the Shrine Auditorium. Ashley celebrated by streaking through the groping crowd with ersatz whipped cream on her breasts. Who can blame her?

I stuck with the Oscars for about five minutes. But Warren Beatty sent me flipping back to spring break. We were now at Las Vegas’ Pink Taco restaurant where young lads were indulging in a burrito-scoffing pig-out. The first person to poo would win $180– woooo ! The camera moved between grunting contestants, stall to stall, in the Pink Taco restrooms. It forced me to watch the rest of the Oscars.

I kept tedium at bay with random speculations and fairly unanswerable questions about the on-screen proceedings:

How come nobody told me Allen Carr died?

Which films did Academy voter Buddy Hackett pick?

How many spring breakers contracted chlamydia during the Burt Bacharach memory lane Oscar medley?

Why doesn’t Nicole Kidman wear a really cheap frock from Strawberry so all her fans could rush out and replicate her look?

If Kevin Spacey suddenly announced that he was gay, would he and Rupert Everett be vying for the same parts?

Did the good people at Benetton entertain ideas of dressing Ms. Swank? Teena Brandon’s killer, John Lotter, is, after all, a featured model in their misguided ad campaign.

Did Randolph Duke tell Ms. Swank about his penile-enhancement surgery? Or did she have to read about it in Page Six on the day she donned his gown?

After the American Beauty triumph, I fell into bed. I found myself thinking about next year’s Oscars. What a relief it would be if, in answer to Ms. Rivers’ question, “Who made your dress?” Gwyneth Paltrow, Elizabeth Hurley or whoever were to reply: “Some faggot!” and keep right on walking down that red carpet?